The Teachings of the Action Committee for the United States of Europe (Monnet Committee)

AuthorJ.-Gérard Lieberherr
PositionEuropean Movement, Paris, France
T EA U R, V. 1 N. 0/2014
The Teachings of the Action Committee for the United
States of Europe (Monnet Committee)
J.-Gérard Lieberherr*
Abstract. The difficulties as well as the successes that the EU faces today are not different from
those of the past. They stem, as in the past decades of the Community, from nationalistic attitudes,
national self interest, over cautious behaviors and, above all, from various fears: fear of the future,
fear of one’s neighbor, suspicion of technological advances and a general feeling of insecurity.
However, for a quarter of a century, there was a man who worked behind the European scene
with the aim of surmounting all such hurdles. That man was Jean Monnet. He was permanently
involved in the gradual construction of a united Europe. It was commonplace to consider that
the so-called “Monnet method” could contribute to resolve most of the disputes and disagreements
inherent in such a process. The “method” was based on dealing with all the various problems off
the visible political stage by bringing together, without prejudice, players drawn from all horizons
of public life. Politicians, trade-unionists, decision makers of all origins met together in the Action
Committee for the United Sates of Europe with the sole purpose of identifying ways and means to
meet the general interest. However, it was, above all, the personal commitment and determination
of one man that made things move. To-day’s European rulers need the same driving force to ensure
the EU continues to move forward every day, as it does imperceptibly in spite of the apparent
Key-words: Jean Monnet; European Union; Federalism
1. Foreword
I met Jean Monnet for the rst time in 1961, over half a century ago. e
following year I married his second daughter Marianne and between 1963
and 1973, we gave him four superb grand-children. I had, therefore, the
* European Movement, Paris, France
Monnet Commitee
privilege of spending several years of my life with a man whom I loved like
my own father who had passed away too soon. During 15 years, we used
to spend all week-ends in Houjarray, next to his home in the countryside.
We used to have long discussions during which he showed an inexhaustible
curiosity for the thoughts of the young man I was at that time. He listened
attentively. He was a very good listener indeed. In turn, I used to listen
to him intently. Maybe just as great names such as Clemenceau, Chang
Kai-Chek, Churchill, Roosevelt, De Gaulle, Adenauer, Willy Brandt and
so many others might have listened to him earlier in his life. He made
everyone he talked to feel intelligent and the most important person on
earth. is being said, it is not my purpose to-day to talk about the private
man. ere is a vast amount of literature about him and over two hundred
Jean Monnet Academic chairs all over the world. I would like therefore
to restrict my presentation to the lessons to be drawn from the life of the
public man.
e “Monnet method” has often been a subject for discussion. Numerous
pages have been written on the subject, notably a study by Wolfgang Wessels of
the Institut für Höhere Studien in Vienna, entitled “Jean Monnet - e Man
and e Method”, the subtitle of which posed the question: “Overestimated
and Outdated?”. I will not attempt to examine here the full extent of Jean
Monnet’s philosophy, and even less will I be tempted to imagine what course
Monnet would recommend for Europe in the current situation.
What most characterizes a method is the fact that it can be replicated. In fact,
Monnet did not have a set recipe. He was not a Cartesian. Just the contrary.
He was creative and pragmatic. He was an inventor of chain mechanisms.
Jean Monnet’s achievements are so closely linked to his personality that
only a clone could claim to apply the Monnet method. Inasmuch as there
is no Spinelli or Werner method, there is no Monnet method. erefore I
would rather discuss what could be called a Monnet Process by examining his
accomplishments since he entered public life as well as during the last years of
his life as he headed the Action Committee for the United States of Europe.
Both periods shed light on today’s realities of Europe.
It is helpful to recall how and why the Action Committee came into being.
It was, in eect, the fruit of a decade long process. Monnet’s roots are to be
found in Cognac. His early life was already marked by a sense of the common
good and joint action. is was illustrated when his father after the phylloxera
crisis, that destroyed most of the French vineyards, brought together a large

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